If you’ve been researching Lyme Disease on the Internet (as you no doubt have), then you’ve probably come across plenty of those cringe-worthy Lyme Disease rash photos. So you may be wondering: are these pictures really helpful in self-diagnosing Lyme Disease?

Don't be confused by Lyme Disease rash photos

Lyme Disease rash photos can leave you feeling confused

The answer is a resounding yes, actually.

In fact, this is one of those purposes that the architects of the modern Internet intended when they designed it: the free and easy dissemination of useful information to everyday people who need it. That said, it’s like any technological gift: you have to be careful with it, and can’t assume that it works right every time.

Um, How’s That?

They may be ugly, but those rash photos can help you in a number of ways — especially by keeping you from dismissing your rash as not being that most deterministic of Lyme Disease symptoms, erythema migrans (EM), just because it doesn’t look like a textbook case.

People upload textbook cases because they’re so, well, textbook. That doesn’t mean they’re entirely typical, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they capture all the potential variations. All kinds of things can affect a rash’s appearance, from skin color to skin topology to the body part it’s on.

In other words, not all cases of EM rash look like the classic bull’s-eye rash that’s considered diagnostic. Some are round but ringless; some are blotchy; some can look like bruises; some may appear irregular or linear. Therefore, you need a wide range of images to compare with your rash.

Google It, Baby!

This is where the Internet’s usefulness comes in. Go to Google and type “Lyme Disease rash” or “erythema migrans” or “bull’s-eye rash” in the search field, and click Enter. When the results pop up, select Images — and you’ll get hundreds. Many of the rashes pictured are bull’s-eye shaped, more or less, but many aren’t.

So do some comparisons. How does your rash compare? You may discover that it doesn’t resemble any EM configuration at all, in which case, great! You probably don’t have Lyme Disease. On the other hand, it may very well resemble an EM rash, in which case we urge you to get tested immediately.

Caveat #1

We’ve got two caveats that we have to mention regarding these photos. First of all, and this is very important, if you’ve recently suffered a tick bite (especially at the site of the rash) or have any of the other common Lyme Disease symptoms, then don’t dismiss the rash even if it doesn’t look like EM. Seek medical help anyway.  Immediately.

Common symptoms of Lyme Disease include sudden neurological impairments (whether minor or major); excessive fatigue for no obvious reason; an onset of flu-like symptoms, including joint pain, muscle aches, headache, and fever; and progressive arthritis symptoms, including swelling and redness of joints.

Caveat #2

Second: don’t automatically assume you have Lyme Disease and start treatment (alternative or otherwise) just because you have a rash that resembles some observed EM morphology. While bull’s-eye rashes are diagnostic of Lyme Disease, even they aren’t definitive; other things, like ringworm, insect and spider bites, can cause ringed rashes.

Photographic evidence is a diagnostic tool. It’s not a proof. If you think you may have Lyme Disease, get tested; if you have an EM-like rash, get tested more than once if necessary, especially if you also have other symptoms. But don’t let Lyme Disease rash photos fool you into undergoing treatment you don’t need.